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China to build communications and navigation constellation around the Moon

Yutu-2 as seen from Chang’e-4. Credit: CNSA / CLEP

Edinburgh, 29 April 2022. – China is planning to set up a lunar communication and navigation satellite constellation around the Moon to aid future operations on the lunar surface, CNSA said.

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced that China will take the lead in demonstrating a lunar relay satellite system. The first launches could take place as early as 2023 or 2024. China is open to other countries joining the program and help build the constellation.

The communications relay and navigation services would be able to support China’s upcoming missions starting with Chang’e-6 and Chang’e-7. Chang’e-6 will return samples from the Moon while Chang’e-7 will search the shadowed craters for water-ice.

China already has a relay satellite stationed around Earth-Moon Lagrange point 2. This provides communications with Chang’e-4 and the Yutu-2 rover on the far side of the Moon. China aims to deploy the relay network to a different orbit to enhance communications and enable the exchange of large volumes of data.

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